There’s a lot more to Illinois than the great city of Chicago. Along with this exciting urban hub there are many natural areas where locals and residents alike enjoy getting outside. With 141 parks it’s no wonder the DNR created the motto, “State Parks, Great Parks” in 2013. This phrase is the title of their initiative to continue improvements on local natural areas with upgraded campgrounds and additional staff to cater to the more than 44 million yearly visitors looking for hiking and camping in Illinois.
People from all over the state – and even outside the country – take the short 1.5-hour drive from Chicago to Starved Rock State Park, where they can hike 13 miles of trails offering elevation gains on wooded pathways along the Illinois River. The 18 canyons serve as great places to spot waterfalls after a rain and families love ending the day with s’mores around the bonfire at the nearby Starved Rock State Park campsites.
Those looking to learn about the state’s heritage while camping in Illinois may head farther south to Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park & Memorial. This 162-acre park is 12 miles southwest of Decatur near Harristown, IL, and features the land where Abraham Lincoln first resided in the state. If you visit be sure to check out the memorials commemorating this important president.
People who want to mountain bike in this Midwestern state will enjoy heading to Palos Park, a forest preserve known for its excellent biking, hiking and equestrian trails that cover over 50 miles of terrain. When it comes to camping in Illinois, this locale offers beautiful facilities at Camp Bullfrog Lake where you can put up a tent next to a lake and hike short or long loops that end up back at your campsite.
If you want to check out the beautiful Lake Michigan drive to Illinois Beach State Park to spend time in the water along the 6.5 miles of sandy shoreline. The park is 4,160 acres offering ample opportunities for hiking, watersports, picnicking, fishing and camping. With The Dyrt, you can be sure to find the best camping in Illinois during your stay in the Prairie State.
Stayed here on a wet and snowy weekend for the Boy Scouts Grant Pilgrimage. Campground was right next to Walmart, which was convenient, and a short walk down to the high school to get the shuttle into Galena itself. Port-a-potties were well maintained and the bathrooms up by the office were very nice (and warm on a chilly day!) Sites weren’t huge, but worked well for our group.
Beautiful Starved Rock is Illinois's favorite state park. Hiking through forests along the Illinois River to canyons and waterfalls with eagles soaring overhead. Historic lodge with good eating, huge fireplace, quaint rooms, and cabins, and a terrific Visitor's Center. However, none of these are near the campground. The campground is actually about a 10-15 minute drive outside the main park. It's a nice campground; sites have water and electric; showers and restrooms are adequate and clean. Sites are wooded and some seem crowded together. This is a very popular park; make a reservation or you might not get a site.
This is a small, bare-bones operation, but it's safe and friendly; a great stop-over for passing through Chicagoland or Joliet. Level sites, full hook-ups. Not far from Chicagoland Speedway.
Located right on US45-US52. Lots of truck traffic stopping at the intersection makes lots of noise at night.
This state park is on a terrific fishing lake. It has first come camping as well as reserved spaces. Some reserved spots have a nice lake overlook. The loops have pit toilets that are clean, as well as a shower house with flush toilets centrally located. The hosts do a nice job of keeping things tidy and organized. The spaces are roomy and a mix of open grass as well as more private wooded spaces. At least half of the spaces will accommodate large RVs. All of the spaces will work for tents. There is only electric at the premium sites, but the dump station has two spaces and the lines move right along. There is a place to take on water as you enter the campground. The lake has a restaurant and bait shop and boat rentals. The fishing can be fantastic.
As a Troop we would rent one of the cabins for late season campouts. Clean facilities but the nice part is the scenic hiking for being close to town. Gentle hills and beautiful color. Always see turkey and other small game so great for Scout skills and badges.
Took my daughter for a simple overnight and it was great. Open campground with nearly zero tree. We had a great campfire but didn’t take advantage of the whole park to explore. She wants to again this year but we will spend more time hiking.
Convenient location to the Fox Valley area but follow map directions because Google will take you to the south entrance which does not connect with the campground.
Nice clean bathrooms as well!
Mendota Hills Campround is great! We had camped there a few times before becoming monthly and then getting put on the waiting list to become seasonal. Last year was our first year as official seasonal campers. We spent 18 weekends there during the 2018 season. All the employees are helpful and very friendly as are the other seasonal campers. The bathrooms were very clean and better than most of the other campgrounds we tried out before making this our permanent camping home. Our 12 year old and all the the friends she has brought have really enjoyed the swimming lake with all of the inflatables and beach slide. We also love being able to have a golf cart here. And when our friends came they were even able to rent one.
Nice family orientated campground been camping here for years and my kids and family love it and always want to stay when it’s time to pack up and head for home the people are nice and owners are too like one big family and quick to help one another
We stayed here during the winter while visiting my brother who was in college nearby. He and his friends seem to camp here quite often and it was a great choice. Even in the winter the sites were quite clear and clean and it provided great access to nearby trails and hiking.
Due to the somewhat rural location you could not beat the view of the stars at night.
For climbers, there is a ton of nearby trad and sport climbing. The main wall stays wet for a while so if it has recently rained you may need to find somewhere else.
We’ve camped here a few times and it is always a great experience. Each site comes with a free bundle of oak firewood which is nice to use on the fire pits.
What’s great about this location is the access to the miles and mile of MTB and hiking trails just out the front step of your campsite.
We live 15 minutes away so like to take midweek camping trips to break up the work week.
We stayed for 4 nights in June in a pull thru FHU. The mosquitos were pretty vicious… a couple of the regulars said it was the worst they'd been in years. We biked around the campground during the days and took advantage of the adult only hot tub hours at night. It was a nice getaway from Chicago.
Two of the reviews are not the Illinois subject area but of somewhere in the western US. Garden of The Gods in Illinois is a beautiful area and great for relaxing, hiking, sightseeing, campings, and picnicking. Great for a day trip or extended stay while exploring the lands between the mighty rivers.
I've stayed at WP for many years, but will now avoid holiday weekends. Made the mistake of staying there over the 4th of July. Very crowded with some sites with 4 tents on them. Woken up at 2 AM by a guy and woman screaming at each other in some kind of domestic dispute. Shower building was filthy with overflowing toilets. Not sure who takes care of these things, but they really dropped the ball.
Regular weekends have been fine but can be noisy during high season. If you're a light sleeper, be aware that BNSF trains blow their horns for a nearby road crossing and possibly the bridge on the north side of the park.
The cabins are nice and the lodge restaurant serves decent food at reasonable prices.
We only stayed for one night in our way north but we will return. Nice level site, pull.through for overnighters (thank you) lots of grass and walking areas for pets, pool, playground etc. friendly service and a welcoming place
This is an amazing full service type private campground. Everything you could want is here: there is a creek with tent sites along it, there are RV sites with full hookups, there are cute little cabins, and there are even yurts! There is a general store where you check in, and if you get there after it closes, they leave directions on the door for reserved sites and info on how to get a non reserved site. There is a nice pavilion, a game room/club house, basketball court, fishing pond, firewood for sale, and a few short trails. I felt like I was in the Berkshires instead of northern Illinois since most of the buildings down by the creek were whitewashed with green trim. Even though sites are close together, it still felt a bit private at the tent only sites on the creek. Up top it was more open with kids running around and playing everywhere. The rates are somewhat pricey ($28 for primitive sites), but include showers in the super clean (looks brand new!) bath house.
Great little campground just outside of Grafton, Illinois, on the Mississippi River. The campground is located in an open grove of old trees. There were owls when we were there. In winter there are a lot of eagles feeding in the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers which meet at the park. The Lewis & Clark expedition started nearby. Most of the sites were fairly level, but I didn’t see any pull through sites. Lots of hiking trails, and the lodge has one of the best fried chicken dinners around on Sunday.
One of the first campgrounds that you come to at Rend Lake when you get off the highway, this campground has lots of positives and few negatives. Among the positives is that this is a large campground with two loops and two spurs for camping. It didn’t seem to matter where your site was, each was fairly small, on top of each other, and lacking the privacy I like when tent camping. That being said, every site has electric (a plus), and every site looked well maintained. There are quite a few sites on the lake or with lake views, and these seemed to be the most coveted sites. My site was on the lake with a down slope reaching down to the tent/picnic pad (a concern if it was going to rain hard), and littered with sweet gum balls that had not been swept up yet. However, I had plenty of space at my site (#79) to spread out and relax. It was pretty neat to look at the exposed roots of trees along the shore, erosion at work. Not far from the campground is a picnic area and the boat launch. One of the down sides is that you can clearly hear the highway from the campground, and of course if you have a lake site, you will have plenty of boat noise. Speaking of boats, most people seemed to be fishing. The campground does not have a fish cleaning station in it but up near the golf course (you drive past it to get to the campground) there is an almost new looking fish cleaning station.
I tried to camp here in the primitive tent area, however the primitive campground was closed and I could not find anyone who could tell me when or if it would reopen. There was a sign stating it was closed in October due to staffing issues. So I took a drive through the Class A campground just to see it. Here’s what I discovered: the primitive section is far removed from the Class A (by a mile or two). The Class A section is HUGE! There were several loops and spurs, including one set aside for volunteers only and one that was for Reserve America only (I’ve never seen that before). I am guessing that the primitive section has some lake access or views like the Class A section does (and the lake views are great!). Looks like a burn was done recently to clear out brush and fall leaves along the backs of a couple of loops. There is a bike trail that seems to go throughout the park but is in pretty bad shape. I would not use a good bike on this and would bring some patches and spare tubes. All sites had the requisite picnic tables and fire rings. There were two campground host sites, but no one seemed on duty to answer my questions. All of the spring flowers were blooming in the woods along the bike trail, which was nice to look at as I bounced down the lanes.
I set up in site 110 for the night at this nicely wooded campground. My site was very private, set back in the trees and very clean. I had large and small trees and underbrush making it impossible to see the site next to me in one direction, and no one occupying the site on the other side. With the car in the drive blocking the road, I had complete privacy. There was a short walk to porta potties and a nice walk to the modern, clean bath house. The site had the usual picnic table and fire pit and plenty of space to put my tent. There were some sites that sat in a meadow that completely lacked privacy, but with tons of space for kids to play. There is a camp store near the entrance to the campground, but I didn’t go in so I’m not sure what it’s stocked with (besides the ice in the cooler outside). Campers who like to imbibe beware: NO alcohol is permitted at this campground. There are some GREAT trails for hiking in the park, but be prepared for lots of stairs on the boardwalks that take you in and out of the canyons/ravines. I didn’t hike up to the actual “Starved Rock”, but you can observe it from the river bank.
Located on Kincaid Lake in the northwestern edge of the Shawnee National forest. The campground has three small loops. Two are more forested with smaller sites and one is more open on the edge of the forest, and geared up for equestrian camping. There are very basic pit toilets that were fairly new and clean. You can get potable water at the entrance. We camped here mid-April and the campground water spigots had not been turned on yet. Camping is $10 a night - self check in. No need to worry about finding firewood, as it is plentiful within the forest. Listened to owls at night before bed.
We took a short ride to nearby Ava and checked out Scratch Brewery. Delicious and unique little place that is off the beaten path. Only open on weekends, but highly recommend.
GRAND PRIZE $100 to Primus Stoves
4 RUNNERS UP WIN $50 to Grub Stick